The Shoes of Happiness and Some Scary Cops

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A couple of nights ago I was awakened by an employee (no names in this post) who told me that he was watching armed robbers rampaging through the house of a prominent Madang resident. He said that he had tried to get the police on the phone, but there was no answer. This is not an uncommon complaint. I tried several times and was just about to jump in the car to drive to the station when an officer answered who recognised my voice. He is the same cop who caught the kid who stole my camera from me on the street in front of my office.

I reported the ongoing incident and then drove to the station to make sure that a vehicle had been dispatched. I met there a somewhat scraggly looking guy, who I presumed (hoped) was a policeman. He said that a ten-seater had been sent to the scene. He opened a door to retrieve what appeard to me to be an ancient Enfield .303 army rifle from WWI. He then indicated that he wanted a ride in my car to the scene.

By the time we got there, the assailants had apparently fled. The police were walking around wishing that they had some light. I drove back home to fetch two powerful lights (Yanks call them flashlights. Here they are called torches.).  When I got back, there were reports that some of the horrible creeps who beat up a woman in her house were hiding out in the surrounding garden waiting for a chance to escape.

The cops took my lights and left me walking around with a big rock in each hand. I find it very strange how reason departs and leaves one fearless (or foolhardy) if the anger level is sufficiently high. I was there with two mates who had heard from the victim and responded to help get things moving. We were all furious at the incident. I was going around looking for someone to bash and sincerely hoping that I would not find anyone. The guys had guns, but there are few manufactured weapons about. The homemade guns usually associated with our thugs are of dubious utility. Nevertheless, I’m not interested in testing their efficacy on myself.

What may be of interest to you is this photograph of the police officers who responded to the call (there were others). Meaning no disrespect at all to our Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, I can image that certain readers might be alarmed by their appearance. They are simply not what one expects to see when the cops show up at your house in the middle of the night:

PNG Cops

In fact, they are nearly as scary as the criminals. It does help to understand that these guys really are here to protect us. Most of us are not in disagreement with the general operational procedure of, “Shoot them if you can. Capture and prosecute if you must.” There are a lot of very dangerous people around here. These fellows are our only defence, God bless ’em. But they are pretty scary looking for cops.

It hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that Madang is becoming an increasingly dirty, disheveled, poorly governed and dangerous place. The question remains: Is anybody going to do anything about it or do we simply hang on and enjoy the ride to hell?

Okay, enough of that. The victim is recovering well, heavily bruised, but otherwise unhurt. I just heard from a friend that two of the assailants are now in custody. This means that the remaining three will probably soon be caught, since the cops are very persuasive in their techniques of extracting information.

Let’s move to a happier subject. Last Saturday evening we had an American Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We’ve been doing this for many, many years. It’s always a good party. All of our guests arrived by boat. They then marched up through the yard to our house, leaving their shoes outside on the veranda, as is the local custom. Here are the happy shoes of the happy people inside our happy house:The Shoes of HappinessLest we all develop diabetes from this sugary moment, let’s move on to some sun.

Here is yesterday morning’s sunrise:Sunrise PanoramaQuite pretty, even by our standards.

I like this telephoto shot from the middle because, if you click to enlarge, you can see many Flying Foxes returning from their nightly raid on the local gardens and rain-forest:Sunrise with Flying Foxes
They will spend the day resting in the trees, screeching and droping fragrant fruit bombs on the unwary.

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25 Responses to “The Shoes of Happiness and Some Scary Cops”

  1. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Wow, what a story. And boy, your “cops” sure do look like some tough customers. Glad the perps were apprehended and that your friend is going to be OK.

    To what do you ascribe the slow slide to hell? What’s different now than say, 20 years ago? If there’s only thing that’s true is that suffering doesn’t just happen; there are causes. What’s you insight into that? (Not looking for a sociological tract – just your impressions.)

  2. MadDog Says:

    We’ve gotten used to our scruffy cops. We sort of like them that way.

    Man, the reasons for decline are simply too numerous to list. At the top I’d put poor governance across the board, corruption, simple greed, ethnic rivalries, lack of education and a general feeling of apathy and helplessness. Anybody else will give you a different list.

    Sound familiar?

  3. Robert@PNG Says:


    I am curious whether the home invasion story is the same story as the one that appeared in The National last week titled “Cruel Attack” ( ?


  4. MadDog Says:

    Yes, Robert. It is the same incident. I got a call from an employee who lives across the street from her. He said that he heard a shot and her screams and there were men moving around inside her house. After several attempts to raise the police, I got ready to drive to the police station. I tried one more time before going out the door and reported it to an officer who knows me. When I got to the station, there was one guy still there. He grabbed a .303 and went in my car with me to the scene. It was all pretty much over by then. I reckon that they were in the house with her for about an hour before the police arrived. I can’t imaging anything much more terrifying than that.

    What pisses me off MOST about this is that it had to be a white expatriate woman who suffered thusly before the public is outraged. How about the PNG women who suffer the same fate every stinking day!

  5. Robert@PNG Says:


    2nd paragraph… spot on bro!

    I fail to comprehend one human being violating another human being. Not even animals do such a thing.


  6. MadDog Says:

    Actually, Robert, there is one animal that engages in very similar activities. It the animal that is most closely related to us, the chimpanzee. They raid, make war, rape, murder. We have company.


  7. Steve Goodheart Says:

    It’s true, even chimps need redemption. It’s in the nature of the beast, whether one believes in an “original fall’ or biological determinism.

    What’s amazing is when an animal, or human, breaks through the conditioning to a different state of being. An awful lot is redeemed when that happens. As rare as it may be, we are all lifted up a bit by it. There’s a Bible verse that says, in effect, that all of createdness is on its tip toes, waiting for the sons and daughters of God to “come into their own.” I do believe that in our redemption, finally and ultimately, all is redeemed. But, it’s a long haul.

  8. MadDog Says:

    I hadn’t followed that line of thinking, Steve, but I do remember that passage of scripture. It does seem applicable here, even if one is not religious. I like to think of it as trying to live ethically in a very nasty place. It’s getting a little ridiculous for me. I can’t sit down and enjoy a steak any more without thinking of all the negative aspects of how it got to be on my plate.

    Unfortunately a huge percent of the population of the world is not thinking very seriously about living ethically.

    Does this make me a saint? 🙂

  9. Robert@PNG Says:

    A long haul indeed…

    In this world: bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Doesn’t matter how much one prays! It’s the inherent nature of life on earth. As to what is good and what is bad is relative.


  10. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Hey Robert! Yes, it’s true. Bad things do happen to good people, in spite of all prayers, metta, and heart’s protest. And good things do happen to bad people, as the psalmist lamented: “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree…” And yes, this apparent amorality seems inherent in the involution of spirit with matter. The relativity of good and evil can only be sorted out experientially, not theoretically or metaphysically.

    Still, and yet, still 🙂 I believe in that all of this is a process, not a fait accompli. I believe in free will, I believe that causes have effects, and effects have causes, even if we would need to be a Buddha, or Christ, to figure the interconnections out. And so, there’s a path to walk, however long it takes, and I hope I can help all my brothers and sisters, of every sort, make it home. Who knows, the “long haul” may only be, finally, a blink in the eye of divinity. 🙂

  11. Steve Goodheart Says:

    MadDog: you are most certainly the Saint of Sunrises and Beautiful Undersea Images! 🙂

    I know what you mean about the steak, and about the lack of ethical thinking in the world. I constantly struggle to see the path of wisdom and love. But if others are not struggling, finally, so what? It’s what like we discussed about Loren Eiseley’s “The Star Thrower”

    Does the good we do, the kindness we practice, matter in this huge, cruel world? “It matters to this one.” And finally, it matters to us, in our hearts.

  12. Robert@PNG Says:


    I appreciate your comments and concur wholeheartedly. I did have to read over your resonse a few times to understand the pearls of wisdom.

    The thoughts you share would appear to encapsulate various world views and a convergence of spiritual teachings. A sure sign tht you are on to soemthing “good”. I’m of the belief that if the spiritual masters that have walked this earth were to meetup that they would agree on most things.

    So much conflict between beliefs and religions arises from the disagreement on trivial semantics and interpretation. All spiritual paths have more in common than not.

    It matters to me too.


  13. MadDog Says:

    What I notice is that most of what I think of as the ‘good’ that I do is virutally unnoticed by anyone else. Does that make it any less good? I don’t know. If it truly does not benefit anyone enough for them to notice it, then why do I bother?

    Well, the answer is obvious, isn’t it. I do it for myself. It matters to me.

    Hah! I’ve discovered selfish altruism!

    I wonder if I can pantent it?

  14. MadDog Says:

    You’re right, man. It’s in the Bible! (must be right, eh?)


  15. Steve Goodheart Says:

    @Robert – Thanks, the feeling is mutual, and I too concur. I would have expected that it “matters to me” because of your other posts. Namaste!

    @MadDog – Unnoticed good is yet another sign of how asleep most beings are. More awake beings tend to notice that kind of quiet good. Selfish altruism! Definitely patent it. 🙂 I remember an argument I had with a Freudian psychologist long ago, in my “arguing days,” who said there are no “unselfish” acts. I strenuously disagreed at the time, I think mainly because of the very dark, reductionist/materialist place the guy was coming from.

    Now, years later, I understand the my good and others’ good are interdependent…my Buddhist teacher uses the term “inter-are.” I can find my own good in another’s good, and vice versa. Of course, at the superficial level, this isn’t obvious, and at times, “my” good and “another’s” good will certainly seem totally at odds or contradictory. But at the deepest level, and in terms of what endures, the good of the one and the good of the all “inter-are”–are finally inseparable. My experience is that the more we can live this way and manifest it, the happier we are.

    Of course, the “devil” is in the details, eh? This deep truth of the unity of good has to be wrought out in life experience–in hard knocks, sorrow, losses, renunciations, awakenings, great joy, and lessons learned. And I’m so very grateful for the brothers and sisters I meet walking along this path.

  16. Steve Goodheart Says:

    @MadDog-“It’s in the Bible, it must be right.”

    Of course, Jan, it must be true if it’s in the Bible! Now lets go out and stone to death or burn at the stake any wicans or adulterers or fornicators or homosexuals or (gasp) pork eaters we can find, not to mention anyone who ever talked back to his/her parents!

    Ah, yes, love dat old time religion! Let’s open a can of jihad on the sinners of the world. The flames will be so lovely! I’ll bring the marshmallows.

  17. MadDog Says:

    Lk. 6
    Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    I have to agree with your Freud Friend. At the most fundamental level, we’re always playing the angles. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do ‘good’. However, any true good that comes from our actions (tasty fruit) is incidental to us getting what we want. (I admit that I may simply be projecting my own twisted motives onto everybody else.)

    Pretty cynical, eh?

  18. MadDog Says:

    There ARE a few witches (don’t know what else to call them) who need to be dealt with. You can be hanged in PNG for ‘murder by sorcery’.

    You couldn’t see how firmly my tongue was planted in my cheek, so maybe you missed the humour intended in my remark.

  19. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Regarding Lk. 6….

    To me, that passage is pure wisdom, pure dharma, in my language. Though I “went off” (in an ironic, humorous way, I hope) on your tongue-in-cheek “it’s in the Bible, it must be true” remark, I truly am open to wisdom wherever it appears—Bible, Koran, Hindu scriptures, or from the mouth of Bugs Bunny. I love many scriptural passages; you just have separate the tares from the wheat (there, I’ve made yet another Bible allusion!)

    I hear you saying you agree with my Freud friend, but since he was wrong, you must be too! 🙂 🙂

    But seriously, you big-hearted lug, at your best, and at my best, and all of us, at our best, ain’t playing no angles….the best in us is just too innocent and unconditioned for that. What I’ve found “on the cushion” and in my life practice is that we really can feel and find a “selfless self”—an “indescribable” that is interdependent with others in such a way that there’s no motive to “get what we want” because this “indescribable” doesn’t have “motives” It just is; it just loves. And whether or not you see it, this unselfed love shines all over your site and in your photographs and in just the you are you. At least, that’s what these eyes of love see, my friend!

  20. Steve Goodheart Says:

    re: “There ARE a few witches (don’t know what else to call them) who need to be dealt with. You can be hanged in PNG for ‘murder by sorcery’.”

    Well, that last part worked out great in Salem, MA, didn’t it, Steve says wryly.

    As for the first part, yes, there are indeed “bad witches” (bad warlocks, sorcerers, shamans) in the sense that there are those who seek to do harm by projected, directed mental malice, autosuggestion, and hypnosis. (And when these don’t work, actual hidden poisons and the like.)

    I could tell you about real-life experiences that would scare your pants off; stuff that happened during my “Christian period,” interestingly enough. This nasty stuff was right out of “The Exorcist,” and only slightly less graphic and gross. People do die from voodoo,f or example; without a hand or physical poison laid on them. It’s well-documented by real scientists. That’s how powerful the mind is.

    Have you never met an individual who gave off such an aura of malice and evil intent, that it gave you pause? Being around some people can literally make you sick, or demoralize you into thoughts and actions you’d never normally consider. This isn’t woo-woo “occult” nonsense; it what comes with the kind of conscious beings that we are.

    And we still haven’t worked it out. That’s why there are still laws around about “hanging witches.” It’s not nonsense; but it’s very ignorant and unenlightened.
    Sadly, as soon as people enter this mental terrain of subjective, suggestive evil, “that way lies madness,” as the Salem Witch Trials and the Spanish Inquisition, so tragically illustrate.

  21. Steve Goodheart Says:

    PS — Let’s not get too serious here!

    Btw, if you haven’t yet, you should drop by my “extreme science” site…I think you’ll find the subject of interest, somehow. 🙂


  22. MadDog Says:

    It’s all a ruse.

  23. MadDog Says:

    It’s a matter of understanding the cultural framework in which I describe certain individuals as ‘witches’. Some witches may be genuinely possessed, I don’t know about that – not my area. Some may believe that they have ‘powers’ and use them for good or evil – again, not my bag, man. The ones that I’m referring to neither possess nor believe in such ‘powers’. They are simply tricksters who are out to control people through fear. They do this by various physical means. Because people are largely ignorant of the ‘secrets’ that these men possess (the tricks they use) the sanguma man has the power of life and death over people. They know where the poisons are in the bush and they know how to pay a guy K50 to stick a knife in someone. I can’t see how these people are useful at all. They should either be removed from the scene or persuaded to change their ways. They are simply causing too much misery to be left unchecked. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    I agree that it makes no sense to ‘hang witches’ in the context in which you mention. However, if it can be demonstrated that someone is causing harm to others through trickery and the creation of false ‘faith’ in the ‘powers’ of these men, the I believe that society has a duty to deal with it. How it’s dealt with is not up to me to decide. It should fit the norms of the culture in which it occurrs.

  24. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Hey MadDog, I don’t disagree with anything in your last post…evil doing *must* be dealt with, and society has a right to deal with it. The sanguma man (new term to me) can’t be allowed to do his dirty work and prey on others. We are in total agreement here.

  25. Adrian Morgan Says:

    Happiness is a state of mind that really depends how we see the situations in our lives each day. you can have all the riches in the world but still see it as a lonely place.:`”